“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”: Tarantino on Masculinity

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is not an homage to the Hollywood of the ‘60s but rather a paean to masculinity using Hollywood as a foil. This fairy tale was created not to praise Hollywood but to censure it.

What drives the movie and constitutes its backbone is the contrast and interplay between two conceptions of what it is to be manly, the one embodied by the mostly Western genre actor Rick (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the other by his stunt man Cliff (Brad Pitt). Rick has been playacting killers and tough guys most of his career. As such he is gritty and fearless and highly skilled in the manly art of self-defense. But, of course, because he is an actor, it is all just an act. The real Rick, the Rick not in front of the cameras, is insecure, and given to weeping, self-loathing and childishness. On the studio grounds he is at one point lectured on the responsibilities of the actor by an eight-year-old girl actor. Later, after doing a scene together, it is the little girl who feels the need to encourage this man much her senior by whispering in his ear, “That was the best acting I’ve ever seen.”

Cliff, by contrast, is fundamentally NOT an actor. He is in movies as a stuntman but his role isn’t to act. It is to fall off roofs and horses and generally help Rick “carry the load,” as Cliff modestly sums up his job the first time we see him. Indeed, Cliff’s modesty, which is fundamentally a self-assurance and far removed from humility, is one of the prominent characteristics that go into defining what it is for Cliff to be manly. The others we will shortly see illustrated: he is confident and exceedingly capable, as exemplified in his genuine ability to defend himself against real threats; he has a pronounced sense of responsibility for his fellow man, even those only distantly related to him, as when he persists at the risk of his own life to enquire about the well being of George Spann; and he is an adult, which is to say mature, not one to give in to the sexual enticements of a girl child. These are some of the jewels in Cliff’s manly crown.

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DeCaprio portray two contrasting types of masculinity in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

And there is another, which is finely demonstrated in Cliff’s confrontation with Bruce Lee. I refer not in the physical fight itself, which Cliff knew he could win, but to his registering the only vocal objection to Lee’s claim that he could whoop Muhammed Ali. All of the several other listening to Lee’s boast — that this 137-pounder could beat the heavyweight boxer — listen in awe and stand transfixed in silence at this display of arrogance and pomposity. Not Cliff. He laughs. A fitting response to be sure, but a response not capable of being made by just anyone in such circumstances.

Finally, Cliff is a stoic. What slings and arrows fortune sends his way, he handles with aplomb, remaining essentially unaffected by them and not at all reduced in the respect he pays to himself. He doesn’t act as if he had been lowered when he is asked to chauffer Rick around or is commanded to fix a TV antenna. And so far is he from complaining about his lot, so little does this man tolerate such whining, that he is prepared to deprive even his beloved dog of supper if that creature whines a second time.  Whining, not bearing without complaint that which fortune brings, is a cardinal sin.

In contradistinction to Rick, who is like Eddie Adams in Boogie Nights in rousing himself to action by lecturing his image in a mirror, Cliff is supremely unselfconscious and always inner-directed. By instinct he knows what he is about and how he should act. This is a character who does not think about how he should act, reflect on what is right and what is wrong, hesitate in the face of a demand for action. He is and he acts from within himself. Which is to say, he is authentic. No rehearsal needed for this kind of “actor.”

It is clear which idea of manliness Tarantino lauds and which he mocks. But note that he mocks not so much Rick the actor as those cowboy roles that Rick played on TV and in the movies. He mocks the savage masculinity of the Rick character who can say, in response to a recollection of many people dying in an earlier gunfight, “Yeah, but we had a lot of fun.”  Of course, Tarantino mocks Rick, too, suggesting that playing such childish roles stunts the actor. And we are meant to laugh at the disparity between Rick’s manliness and that of the fictional characters he portrays.

It is fitting that Cliff would be rewarded only with a bare subsistence. His circumstances likely have not fallen. More likely they have never risen above lodging in a trailer and feeding on mac and cheese, while Rick has laddered up to one mansion short of Roman Polansky’s. So skewed were Hollywood’s values in the ‘60s, and so skewed were those of TV viewers.

The picture I have drawn of Cliff’s manliness is considerably larger and more detailed than that of Rick for the good reason that the kind of manliness embodied in Cliff is itself much more generous and expansive. A mature human is far more complicated and interesting than a toddler, and infinitely more praiseworthy.

Tarantino would thus agree with the hitchhiking hippy girl when she tells Rick that his stuntman work is far more real than that of actors, who are essentially phony. Hollywood TV serials of the ‘60s were peopled with Ricks — Matt Dillon, Man from Uncle, Batman — cosseted play actors pretending to kill those who pretended to want to do them harm. (Matt Helm movies escapes this criticism, as they didn’t take themselves seriously. Helm movies underline their distance from reality and present themselves as an amusement and not a model for anything but fun. That fun was good, clean and wholesome. As was Sharon Tate, who had a role in one of those Helm movies.)

But to what extent would he agree with another Manson girl, a killer manqué, who contends that Hollywood’s TV Westerns taught America how to kill, but that was only play acting and what the Manson clan is about to do — kill those same actors and directors responsible for those Westerns — is far more genuine and true? Indeed, the killing of Sharon Tate and companions was anything but phony?

Obviously, Tarantino was repulsed by the killings and would hardly endorse the irrational thinking that lay behind it. But those killings were real and those Manson killers were authentic in their actions, and that violence endlessly portrayed in ‘60s TV and movie Westerns (phony violence) may very well have blunted those killers’ moral sensibilities — to some extent.

Some have taken Once Upon a Time to be drubbing of hippies. I think it is only partially a drubbing. The Manson killers did have something pressing to say — to Hollywood. And also to Tarantino, some of whose movies are peppered with orgies of mayhem, much of it, like that in Gunsmoke and Wanted Dead or Alive, presented as morally justified. Might Django Unchained have encouraged the killing of some White folks?

The portrayal of Jews in the film is hardly irrelevant given Tarantino’s close relationship with one of Hollywood’s most influential producers, the notorious Harvey Weinstein. Tarantino has said he knew of some of Weinstein’s offenses and regretted he did not assist his victims and blow he whistle on his predations. The two Jewish directors we see portrayed in the film, Wannamaker and Schwarz, are glib, manipulative wizards who are clearly adept at pulling the strings that direct the lives of Hollywood hopefuls. The third Jew depicted, Roman Polanski, is seen by Rick as a grand star in the Hollywood firmament, but for many of those watching this movie he is foremost a child rapist and as such stands as a foil to Rick who, far from raping a girl child who fell into his lap, manfully rebuffs her advances. Weinstein is paired with Manson here.

Is Tarantino blowing the whistle now? Blowing it on those powerful movie men who chew on and disgorge naifs from the Midwest? Blowing the whistle on himself and his movies, including, height of ironies, Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood?

Daniel N. Davidson worked as a reporter and editor for a variety of newspapers and as a text editor for the Jerome Levy Economics Institute. He lives in Milwaukee.

18 replies
  1. SS
    SS says:

    Rick had kindly Jewish bosses who were mostly interested in helping him reach his full potential in life. Rick and Sharon make disturbing pig noises at times, no doubt a dog whistle to the Hebrews in the audience. I felt the climax had some racist dog whistles to blacks when Pitt says “I remember your white face…and I remember your (red) hair” before he starts beating the hell out of the hippies. I doubt too many blacks sat through this movie, but if they did, look for random attacks on white hippie kids to rise.

  2. vicki
    vicki says:

    Daniel N. Davidson, it takes a man who possesses the admirable qualities of true masculinity to recognise them in others.
    ” .. he is confident and exceedingly capable, as exemplified in his genuine ability to defend himself against real threats; he has a pronounced sense of responsibility for his fellow man, even those only distantly related to him, as when he persists at the risk of his own life to enquire about the well being of George Spann; and he is an adult, which is to say mature, not one to give in to the sexual enticements of a girl child. These are some of the jewels in Cliff’s manly crown.”

    I believe femininity also has its high counterpart to the admirable masculinity of Cliff.

  3. I would rather not...
    I would rather not... says:

    Sir, I am sorry to say, you are wasting your ability to analyze things on Hollywood movies…

  4. RoyAlbrecht
    RoyAlbrecht says:

    The real life child rapist, Polanski, comes off as a sympathetic, neighbourly saviour in the film.

    He welcomes the newly returned State-Side, but mid-life crisis afflicted, Rick, into his home after returning from doing a few years of Spaghetti Westerns in Italy.

    The night of the Polanski invite, Rick, his new Italian wife and Cliff were subjected to an attempted murder-attack in Rick’s home that was successfully yet gruesomely rebuffed by killing the three “Hippy Meth heads”.

    This self-defensive, slap-stick, yet gruesome murder scene was the climax to an otherwise very boring film.

    Rick and Cliff are supposed to represent some sort of “…Pre-Hippy…”, Red Neck-cum-Elvis, segment of Hollywood society that is in conflict with the student hippy generation of Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll.

    The reality however is that Jews controlled Hollywood, lock stock and barrel, by the end of the 1930’s…, and no such conflict ever existed…, at least not in Hollywood.

    In fact, there was always a uniform flow from Jew produced, Black Jazz culture of the 1920’s into the 1965 culture of the Hippy.

    If a fictional conflict between these two generations, as portrayed in this movie, ever existed it surely was not in Hollywood.

    The time honoured method of using Jewish phenotypes whenever benevolent characters came into the picture and using non-Jewish phenotypes whenever villains appeared remains unchanged.
    The little girl who cheers-up Rick is an eight year old Jew with the linguistic skill of a freshman University English Major and the wisdom of a Sufi.

    Smoking weed however, was presented as being cool by everyone in the film. A reflection of the legalization trend sweeping across North America no doubt and the heavy Jewish investment therein.

    Just as the Bronfman’s owned majority stakes in both Universal Film Studios and Seagram’s Distilleries (among other global alcohol brands),
    this film is no doubt a reflection of how Jews tend to sell one of their products through the implicit use of another (I.e. alcohol consumption in the movies is now being joined by marijuana consumption).

    Producers and agents that Rick comes into contact with are all benevolent and sincere and have Jewish phenotypes.
    Criminal, dead beat, usurious, and filthy Hippies all have NON-Jewish Phenotypes.

    All in all, the film challenges one’s ability to inflict oneself to boredom for the full duration and is punctuated with a gruesome scene of violence involving a dog’s teeth and a Hippy’s gonads.
    At best this is a low-budget, B-Movie that uses pre-internet big name stars to attract ticket buyers. My tickets were free.

  5. Poupon Marx
    Poupon Marx says:

    This review of moldy, tasteless porridge or hasty curdled pudding reminds me why we so enjoy Chinese, Japanese, Korean, other Asian films, as well as those away from the contagion and sewage of Western neurosis, psychosis, and spiritual diseases.

    The above have zero influence from ZOG NWO viruses and parasites.

    • Dave Bowman
      Dave Bowman says:

      the contagion and sewage of Western neurosis, psychosis, and spiritual diseases

      “Western” only inasmuch as it has been foisted, bribed, tricked and forced on the Western world by it’s originators – the psychopathic liars, thieves, tricksters, charlatans, crooks and degenerates properly called Khazars, known as Jews, masquerading as mankind’s intercessors with the Almighty, and with no ambitions beyond living in opulence beyond the imagination of man until the end of the world their bottomless evil has brought about.

  6. claudius1889
    claudius1889 says:

    I am sorry, but I don’t see the point of this article. What has a degenerate like Tarantino to offer?

    Who gives a damn about his decadent, obnoxious movies?

  7. Rocky
    Rocky says:

    We all remember how stunning the late Farrah Fawcett was. Spelling tried to gyp her, and she gave him the finger. She was blackballed. The proud woman from Texas didn’t care. She made money on the 20 million posters she sold and which she controlled. Hollywood brass cried they didn’t own a piece of it. No Farrah, but Diane Keaton, Sally Fields and Holly Hunter instead. Farrah was smeared that she couldn’t act. Some people don’t care for mawkish method acting. She was a swan amongst ugly ducklings.

  8. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    As far as I know, Tarantino is a creature of today’s Left: Anti-white-male, anti-Western Civilization, and useful to the Jews who run Hollywood. He is part of their anti-white propaganda machine. I wouldn’t credit him with creating the characters in “his” movie. That was done by the writer(s). And saying that the Manson girls, by murdering Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, etc., were “commenting” on violence in American Westerns, or that they represented a kind of “authenticity”, with all due respect, is nonsense. They were damaged children from broken families during a time of great social upheaval, the drugged and brainwashed followers of a manipulative self-styled guru who couldn’t get the respect and fame he wanted from Hollywood and decided to get notoriety in another way.

    • claudius1889
      claudius1889 says:

      Well said, Andrew. Tarantino is a piece of s… A sadist and, as a typical product of Hollywood, a fanatical anti-white activist. I don’t understand why he has been given space here at TOO. His films do not deserve serious analysis.

      • Andrew
        Andrew says:

        claudius1889: Thanks. The review takes Tarantino seriously as an artist and a thinker. No, he’s just a shill for the Jews and promotes their program of white dispossession, demoralization and genocide. I haven’t seen the movie, but I suspect that a proper analysis would take note of the way Tarantino attacks non-Jewish white masculinity and the courage, initiative and venturesomeness of non-Jewish whites who settled the West without benefit of welfare programs, law enforcement, Jewish lawyers or hot and cold running water. He carries out this attack by pitting whites against each other based on economic and social class differences (an old Jewish trick). The poor guy is admired at the expense of the rich guy. But if that poor guy did not encounter any rich guys, then the Jews and their spokesman Tarantino would defame him as mere trailer trash. That’s how hypocritical they are. Tarantino does the same thing in “Inglorious Basterds”: A hillbilly that Hollywood and Jews would despise is okay because he likes to carve swastikas into the foreheads of German soldiers who have surrendered to him.

        It’s not enough, though, to take whitey down a notch. White American culture has to be defamed as well. So the despicable Manson girls are depicted as “more authentic” than the gunslingers of the Old West.

        It really makes you wonder when the reviewer talks about Tarantino being “repulsed” by the Manson killings and “not being irrational”. Which Tarantino is he talking about? Surely not Quentin!

        He even suggests that Tarantino is taking a stab at the Jews by portraying them as glib and manipulative. The Jews have a lot of chutzpah, but even they know that portraying a Jew as a sincere, “aw shucks” kind of guy in the context of Hollywood of all places would be too much for America to swallow. When they want people to feel sorry for the “innocent Jews”, they just churn out another Holohoax movie.

  9. Robert Dolan
    Robert Dolan says:

    I would not give QT much credit. He’s not a big brain.
    He spent his entire career glorifying violence to make a buck.
    He is an ethno-masochist and has made some mind numbingly stupid
    anti-white pronouncements.

  10. Alfred
    Alfred says:

    This is undoubtedly one of the best definitions of a being a MAN that I have read.
    The author is yet another in the brilliance exhibited on the TOO.
    Tarantino is a talent but the film “Django Unchained” was like INGLORIOUS BASTARDS which I believe had a deliberate misspelling of the first word, When Jamie Foxx hosted Saturday Night Live when “Django Unchained” was newly released he said he had a great time, “KILLING ALL THE WHITE PEOPLE” and do you know what the white audience did? THEY CHEERED!

    Well God does forgive sinners and maybe Tarantino seeks to undo what he did.

    I commend the author and Dr MacDonald for having this article available and all the rest the good Kevin does for us all.

  11. UnaBombAppreciationSociety
    UnaBombAppreciationSociety says:

    Was That Quentin Tarantino or Brenton Tarrant or Brenton Tarantino or Quentin Tarrant.
    Both Dramatis Personae? Where doth art follow life? Who gives us a true definition?

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